Plot: Frank (Nick Offerman) is well into middle age and as a widower, has raised his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) on his own, but now she is on the verge of college and that weighs on him. He has invested a lot of his time and energies into his record shop, a small, vinyl based locale that caters to music aficionados or at least the ones who can put up with Frank’s hipster persona. The shop is deeply ingrained into his sense of self, but after the rent is raised, he knows he can no longer keep the shop open and begins to plan for the shutdown. This couldn’t be a worse time, given that Sam is at a crucial place in her life, so soon Frank could find himself alone and in need of a fresh start. But before she leaves, he wants to have some final jam sessions and when she plays an original song for him, Frank is floored by how good it is. She resists his praise, but he uploads the song to Spotify and it becomes a minor, which inspires Frank with an idea for the two to form a band and continue to make music. But is he just trying to hold onto both his grown up daughter and the memories of his past as a musician?
Entertainment Value: I have to be honest, I found Hearts Beat Loud to be well made and well performed, but I couldn’t connect with the dead serious, pretentious hipster vibe that permeates the material. I do think it makes sense, as a non hipster parent might not try to hold their child back from a bright future just to keep an ancient dream alive, but I didn’t like Frank in the least. The movie seems to want him to come off as this gruff, yet sweet kind of hipster, but it didn’t land for me and since I couldn’t connect at all with Frank, I didn’t care what happened to his threads here. I just wanted to see Sam get away from her borderline toxic father, but I have read a lot of reviews where viewers were warm to him, warts and all. The music is the real draw and all of the songs were performed live by the cast members, so there is an authentic aspect and that is rare even in music driven pictures. And while I disliked the emphasis on hipster culture, those who appreciate that realm will likely go bananas for Hearts Beat Loud, as it is deeply rooted in that world. For me though, this was a mostly bland, hipster themed coming of age story that never hooked me in.
I like most of Nick Offerman’s work, especially his legendary run as Ron Swanson, but I just didn’t connect with him as an aging hipster, not in the least. He pulls off the part, as he is a douche with all the usual hipster traits, down to a fetish for vinyl and gatekeeping music, so his performance can’t be faulted. I just think he deserves better material than this, a thin, predictable role that drags him into saccharine tinged attempts at emotion that are just super forced. The father/daughter relationship is ripe with potential, but seems wasted here, as the movie can’t commit to the depth of character enough to make it all work. Instead we are left with hollow emotion and manipulative shortcuts, though again, Offerman’s turn here is quite good. Kiersey Clemons also hands in a terrific performance and she is given more to work with, despite still falling within the usual teen angst type role. She makes the most of the depth she’s given however, so I think she is one of the movie’s highlights. I just wish she was more of the focus, rather than the hipster dad. The cast also includes Ted Danson, Blythe Danner, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, and Alex Reznik.